Another failed prediction

Poison the well much?

In a post that calls participants in the March for Science “spoiled brats,” “full-time complainers,” and “crybullies,” David Klinghoffer stopped just short of predicting that the March would become a riot:

The March for Science website includes a “Statement on Peaceful Assembly and Nonviolence,” …Why the need for a statement that you don’t “condone violence” if you’re not concerned that participants in your event will get violent?…

The crybullies, as [Daniel Greenfield] calls them, specialize in anger. Like small children throwing fits, they are liable to lash out physically, as recent incidents on college campuses have shown.

If violence occurs on April 22 on the National Mall, or hundreds of satellite protests elsewhere, that’s where it will come from.

I witnessed the rage myself, and it wasn’t pretty. [Warning: this gets pretty graphic below the fold]

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Surviving Trump

For a firsthand account of how it feels to be a Mexican scientist in Trump’s America, check out Surviving Trump, a new blog by María Rebolleda Gómez. This is just an excerpt; the whole thing is worth a read:

Of all of the crazy things these week, the refugee crisis ban has been one of the most painful. Restrictions on immigration feel personal. I was raised by an amazing community of refugees: my grandparents left Spain during the civil war as kids, they found refuge in Mexico and for that they deeply loved the country. Friends of the family ran away from persecution during the Chilean and Argentinian dictatorships: These are professors in high schools and public universities, doctors, artists and journalists. They have deeply contributed to Mexico’s city life and society and keep giving their hearts and work to the country that opened its doors for them. In Minneapolis, I lived in a neighborhood with a majority of Somali refugees. Kind neighbors, and a lovely community to be part of. The ban on refugees (on holocaust remembrance day!!!!!) is harmful for the the people that thought they had a home, and the country as a whole.

Relentless use of passive voice

Image from ragan.com.

Image from ragan.com.

I have had the phrase “relentless use of passive voice” in my head for years as a criticism of overly dry scientific writing. I thought I learned it from the excellent paper “How to write consistently boring scientific literature” by Kaj Sand-Jensen. Like Gould’s tennis stadium in “Muller Bros. Moving & Storage,” though, when I went back to look for it, it wasn’t where I thought it was. If anyone can tell me where the phrase actually originated, I would be grateful.

Wherever I first heard it, the phase has affected my scientific writing (or should I say ‘my scientific writing has been affected by the phrase’). I have the impression, supported by no hard data whatsoever, that the relentless use of passive voice has declined over the past few decades in scientific writing. It is now common to read about what “we” (the coauthors) did in the Methods and what “we” found in the Results. It’s not even that rare to see descriptions of what “I” did or found in a solo-authored paper (the horror!).

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GMO and DNA

Figure 4 A & B from McFadden & Lusk 2016. Views about mandatory labeling.

Figure 4 A & B from McFadden & Lusk 2016. Views about mandatory labeling.

A recent paper in The FASEB Journal by Brandon R. McFadden and Jayson L. Lusk examines views on mandatory labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods (that’s the best link I could find; it’s not the final, formatted version, and it may differ in content as well). What a shitshow:

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No, the Patriots aren’t magically controlling coin tosses

They shouldn't be. Image from USA Today.

They shouldn’t be.
Image from USA Today.

Citing a CBS article, Uncommon Descent complains “No design inference allowed on coin flips.” As I’ve come to expect from them, it’s pretty hard to parse a coherent argument out of the article, but I’ll bet it has something to do with 747s and tornadoes (say what you want about Evolution News and Views; at least you can follow their arguments). So it’s not clear what design inference they think we should draw from the New England Patriots winning 19 of 25 coin flips, nor who is being prevented from drawing it.

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Best rejection letter ever, or science urban legend?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek by Jan Verkolje. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek by Jan Verkolje. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Trying to find some background on Van Leeuwenhoek’s discovery of Volvox, I came across the following on Wikipedia:

Despite the initial success of Van Leeuwenhoek’s relationship with the Royal Society, this relationship was soon severely strained. In 1676, his credibility was questioned when he sent the Royal Society a copy of his first observations of microscopic single-celled organisms. Previously, the existence of single-celled organisms was entirely unknown. Thus, even with his established reputation with the Royal Society as a reliable observer, his observations of microscopic life were initially met with both skepticism and open ridicule.[12]

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